Canfor to shut down sawmills in Chetwynd, Houston

Chewtwynd mill to shut down permanently, Houston for extended period

Canfor will permanently shutter its sawmill and wood pellet mill, shown here, in Chetwynd and redevelop its Houston mill. | Canfor

Canfor Corp. (TSX:CFP) says it will permanently shut down its sawmill and pellet mill in Chetwynd B.C., and will also shutter its sawmill in Houston, B.C. to redevelop that site.

Up to 490 workers could be laid off, though the company says it's too early to tell just how many of those layoffs will be permanent.

The announcement comes just two weeks after the company announced it will permanently shut down its pulp mill in Prince George.

Canfor is rationalizing its sawmill and pulp mill operations in B.C. to align with a shrinking fibre supply.

The company plans to build a "new, modern globally competitive manufacturing facility" in Houston to produce "high value products."

"The company will undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the availability of economic fibre and a thorough project financial analysis, supporting a final investment decision by the end of the second quarter of 2023," Canfor said in a news release.

"Both facilities will be closed following an orderly wind down of operations that is expected to conclude early in the second quarter of 2023 and will remove approximately 750 million board feet of annual production capacity."

“We are making these difficult but necessary decisions to create a more sustainable operating footprint in B.C.," said Canfor CEO Don Kayne. "Our goal is to match our mill capacity with the economically available fibre for harvest to enhance our ability to compete and to operate throughout the market cycles.

"This is what will ultimately create greater stability for our employees and communities, while ensuring we can continue to provide the high quality, low carbon products that are in demand by our customers around the world."

Canfor said 157 workers in Chetwynd will be laid off. It's not clear yet how many of the 333 employed in Houston will be permanently laid off.

"In addition to potential relocations to other Canfor operations during this transition, we will also be working closely with our union, the United Steelworkers, to fully explore creative options to keep as many people as possible working," the company said in an email to BIV News.

"This could include opportunities in Houston through the project or other site activities, as well as jobs at other Canfor locations during the temporary shutdown."